The background goes like this:
- Young, New Zealand deer antlers grow at amazing rates — nearly an inch per day, presumably due to their high IGF-1 content.
- IGF-1, or Insulin-Like Growth Factor 1, has a major role in both childhood growth and anabolism (muscle and tissue growth) in adults.
- Injecting IGF-1 into your system can give seriously anabolic effects, but is also very dangerous and banned in nearly every sport. So we don’t touch that.
- But the THEORY is, if you extract the IGF-1 from deer antlers’ velvet (preferably from the faster-growing New Zealand Deer) and supplement it orally, you can get a safe and undetectable growth hormone boost to aid in recovery and repair.
So when this information was uncovered, and it was discovered that ancient Chinese medicine had also been doing this for “2000 years”, supplement manufacturers sprang into action.
Now, we’re not talking about your standard supplement companies like Cellucor and MusclePharm. Think more along the lines of “Get Rich Quick” / “snake-oil” style companies.
Vijay Singh Gets Roped In
So out came a slew of IGF-1 boosting supplements based on deer antler velvet, including one that Vijay Singh was sold on, and completely admitted to using during an interview with Sports Illustrated.
What Vijay did not know was that Deer Antler Velvet contained IGF-1, which was on WADA’s banned substances list (WADA = World Anti Doping Agency). And while they couldn’t test for his consumption, he admitted to breaking the rules, which constituted an infraction of PGA TOUR rules.So the PGA Tour “sanctioned” Singh, with a possible suspension to come later. We’re not sure what exactly the punishment of that sanction was.
Meanwhile, some research was done on the products Singh was using, and it turns out that the company, S.W.A.T.S (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids), actually privately labels another company’s product, and then adds a hologram sticker that gets “encoded” with certain radio frequencies that supposedly help with performance.
Such claims of “radiofrequncy tuning” of supplements have absolutely no backing from any reputable scientist, but other athletes, including NFL players, bought in to them over the past 5 years before IGF-1 sprays were banned.
WADA Overturns the Ban
However, when it was noted that WADA had banned a naturally occurring substance that it could not currently test for, it decided to overturn the ban. And the PGA then decided not to penalize Singh, which is what made this week’s news.
It seems like Singh plans to continue using deer velvet antler supplements, so let’s see the science behind this puzzling stuff…
The Effectiveness of Deer Antler Velvet Supplements
So far, everything here sounds pretty ridiculous, except there might be a touch of research behind it (granted, it’s not the strongest case we’ve ever seen).
First off, we head to nih.gov, which is our favorite source of studies. In a “round-up” of studies, it basically states that human trials have been weak, “but for osteoarthritis the findings may have some promise.”
The Broeder Study
Then, there’s another study that is not in PubMed, so buyer beware… but it was double-blinded and placebo-controlled and run by C.E. Broeder at several US universities (including Florida, East Tennessee, Idaho and Florida State).In this study, 32 men with at least 4 years of weightlifting experience were given a placebo or New Zealand deer antler velvet for 10 weeks. It was taken orally via capsule, and there was a very high drop-out rate (only 56% of subjects completed – cause for alarm).
So the study ended up with 9 users of each group. The results?
Significantly Better Squats, Insignificantly Better Bench
The Deer Antler Velvet group increased their max 1RM squat by 9.9%, compared to the placebo group which only by 4.1%. That’s significant. However, the 1-RM bench press of the velvet users went up by 4.2% compared to the placebo increase of 4.1% – not significant.
Significantly Improved Bodyfat / Body Composition
In the antler velvet group, in all three markers of percentage of bodyfat and “total fat weight”, as well as trunk-to-limb fat weight ratio declined significantly or extremely close to significant.
Significantly Better VO2 Max and Cholesterol
Other findings were that the Deer Antler users gained significantly in terms of VO2 max (by 9.8%) and a better cholesterol ratio.
Of course, we take this with a grain of salt. It’s not on Pubmed, and they were using 1350mg of deer antler velvet, which we have absolutely no clue how strong it was and how well IGF-1 was extracted from it.
The full study is here.
My Personal Experience with IGF-1 / Antler XI have actually personally used a deer antler spray — Antler X to be specific. My results were the following:
- Deeper sleep with more vivid / intense dreams
- A bit less soreness
- Harder and thicker erections (srs)
- Slightly shoulder pain (due to my swimming and volleyball career, this is an ongoing thing with me)
- Moderate strength boost – Couldn’t tell you if this was from the IGF-1 or if it was just because the shoulder was behaving
In short, this behaved just like any other natural growth hormone booster (such as USPLabs PowerFULL, Ronnie Coleman’s Resurrect-PM, or just mega-dosing Mucuna Pruriens and L-Arginine before bed). They all cause these similar effects, and that’s what happens with a bit more GH being produced by your own body.I’m not saying any of these products, especially Antler X, are worth it. I’m not saying they’re the best supplements ever created — because they’re not.
I’m just saying that it’s not 100% BS. For some people, the extra sleep alone makes these products worth exploring. For others who are more desperate (due to injury or weak erections), dumber things could be taken.
Of course, stricter diet and exercise could easily account for better sleep and sex as well, but everyone knows that. You’re either going to eat your vegetables and feel great or you’re not, so that’s basically besides the point.
Back to Vijay Singh and the PGA Tour
Meanwhile, there’s a few problems at hand.
- First off, Vijay Singh was using a very weak form of the spray, and its use is further muddied by pseudoscience of radiofrequency waves. What he used was extremely weak, and it wasn’t manufactured by the company who sold it. Too many alarms going off here.
- Second, he claims that the product tastes good.
Let me tell you something: Deer antler velvet will NEVER taste good. It tastes like shit! If the product tastes good, then you are using nothing but a bottle of sugar and weak extract.
The real stuff — 100mg in Antler X — doesn’t taste awful, but I’m not gonna lie and tell you it tastes great by any means. They needed to flavor the hell out of the spray to make it acceptable. And that’s the way it should be.
- The next issue has to do with WADA. They cannot test for this. It’s not that
- So since WADA can’t test for this, and Singh admitted to using it but there’s no way to “prove” it… you have yourself a catch-22. Consider this analogy:
- There’s hormones in the beef I eat.
- Those hormones are illegal/banned if I inject them
- I do not know the amount of said hormone in said beef.
- The hormone won’t come up in any drug test I take.
- So should you ban beef?
It’s not much different for WADA and Deer Antler spray. And that’s a strong reason why it was unbanned.
My Final Thoughts
In the end, I think that most of this is nonsense. But if I were an athlete performing at an elite level, and deer antler spray was now no longer banned… I would definitely consider trying Antler X.
For everyone else, do whatever you want… but note that eating your leafty vegetables, tons of lean protein and healthy saturated fats, and cutting the grains and soy (get your carbs from yams!) will have far better anabolic effects than spraying stuff under your tongue.
All that said, those erections were kinda fun…
For us, the jury’s still out on supplements like Antler X. Anyone want to run a supplement log to put it to rest once and for all? I’m payin…
- The effects of New Zealand deer antler velvet supplementation on body composition, strength, and maximal aerobic and anaerobic performance C.E. BROEDER